Get away from the crowds
It is almost laughable how congested some of the canals can get with tourists on gondolas. Actually, no, it is laughable. Especially near Piazza San Marco, the Rialto Bridge, and near the cruise ports in the southern part of the island. While walking in the most tourist-filled parts of the city, I couldn’t help but cringe at the insanity of all the gondolas and gondoliers yelling at one another as they tried to pass. It looked like a combination of bumper cars and a ride at Disney World.
Avoid this at all costs! A gondola ride is supposed to be relaxing and romantic, and I cannot imagine feeling anything but stressed in an environment like the one I just described. Do yourself a favor and walk thirty minutes to a more remote part of the city. I promise you will still find a gondola, and it is more likely that you will only run into two or three passing gondolas, rather than twenty.
Shop around for your ideal
Don’t settle on the first gondola you see. It will be tempting, especially if you are experiencing Venice for the first time. But take your time. Get to know the area. If it’s crowded, chances are the waters will be crowded to. Get to know your gondolier. If you like him, keep him in mind; if you don’t, then move on to someone more appropriate to your needs. Prices are pretty much the same no matter where you are or who your gondolier is; make the most of the money you are spending.
Another thing to ask for when you’re shopping is a map of where you’ll be going. That way you know for sure that you’re getting what you want. I recommend taking a ride that covers both smaller side canals and spends at least a few minutes on the Grand Canal. That way you get the best of both worlds!
Give yourself plenty of time
It may take a while to shop around, and when you do find your ideal location and gondolier, chances are slim that you will be able to hop right on. There may be a wait. That’s ok! Talk to the gondolier and make sure he’s aware that you’re interested and get your name on the “list”, then go get gelato or an espresso, meander around the area and take pictures, go shopping, and keep checking back.
You don’t need to book in advance
Sometimes you can book a gondola ride ahead through your hotel or through the gondoliers themselves. It may cost a little extra in fees. I don’t really think this is necessary. We visited Venice in July at the height of tourist season, and there were still plenty of gondolas to accommodate everyone. As long as you are flexible with your timing (see the point above) then you will have no problem finding a perfect gondolier and gondola.
Be prepared to pay a lot
It costs to be iconic and ride a gondola in Venice. To be specific, it costs €80 for thirty minutes. Yes, it’s absurd. But yes, I think it’s worth it. You traveled all this way to really appreciate Venice for what it is, and what you experience is a big part of that. If that sounds like too much money for you, there are ways around it! Gondolas can hold up to six people, so you can potentially split the €80 cost six ways if you are with family, friends, or other visitors who don’t want to spend the money.
When will you have to pay more?
Evening and night are the two most romantic times for a gondola ride… and the prices can rise by almost €20 per ride because of it. If that’s the kind of atmosphere you want, be prepared to pay for it.
Another thing that you’ll have to pay extra for is a gondolier who will sing to you. I know, I know, it’s kinda a bummer, especially if you don’t know that until after your ride is over and you’re left wondering why you weren’t serenaded by a beautiful Italian love song. Some gondoliers (like ours) may softly serenade you for a minute or two while you’re in a quiet area. But, for the extravagant singers, you’ll need to pay extra. If that doesn’t sound like something you want to splurge on, not to worry! You may just be able to watch a gondola with a brilliant singer float by as you’re walking through the streets.
Get out the camera, and then put it away.
Get as many pictures and video of your gondola ride as you can! But then, put away the camera and enjoy the fact that you’re on a gondola in Venice. Please don’t waste your dream coming true because you’re behind the lens of a camera the entire time. Trust me, you won’t be sorry.
Ultimately, I think we got really lucky with the gondola ride that we chose, but the process took a bit of learning. I hope this helps your dreams of riding a gondola in Venice become an even better reality!
If you want to see more pictures of our time in Venice, make sure you’re following me on Instagram! If you’re not, click here and take a look at some of the pictures I snapped ( when I wasn’t busy enjoying our gondola ride, of course 😉 )